Katherine Bencosme displays her self portrait. Photo by Oscar Chavez

Katherine Bencosme displays her self portrait. Photo by Oscar Chavez

CAW returns to our roots in the heart of East Harlem. This neighborhood, also know as El Barrio, has a long tradition of expressing its vibrant culture through public art. Youth Apprentices will be painting a large-scale mural on the east-facing exterior wall of the Renaissance School of the Arts (RSA). But before they start on the wall, they will participate in a number exercises to sharpen their skills.

On Tuesday, the RSA students tried their hand at self-portraits. This exercise was more about symbolism than drawing skills. The assignment was to decorate a drawing of your own face with pictorial elements and designs that express your personality, your values, and your beliefs. In other words, to capture the essence of who you are as a person. Karen Zhang, a Youth Apprentice with the Multimedia Team, describes the scene:

In the auditorium at Renaissance School for the Arts, the youth employees have made the school stage their workshop. Everyone sits at a long table littered with color pencils and makers. There is a never-ending flurry of activity from people sketching, coloring, making small talk with their neighbors, and asking the teachers for advice. Some people are putting the finishing touches onto their self-portraits while others are still sketching out their ideas or putting in more detail.

Emmily Matos is a college student majoring in liberal arts. It is her first time in the program and her first time drawing. She sets down her pencil on her portrait, thinking deeply about how to place the next lines to best express what she wants to say. In her sketch she has tree roots draped on her face and birds throughout her portrait to display her love for nature.
— CAW Youth Apprentice Karen Zhang

You are welcome to visit the RSA Public Art Youth Employment Program at 319 East 117th Street in East Harlem. Youth Apprentices and CAW Teaching Artists and Teaching Artist Assistants will be on the job Monday through Thursday from 10:00AM to 4:00PM. Call our office to inquire about directions and the best days and times to visit: (646) 424-0392.

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